Tree house fire pole

I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about building a tree house without a tree, and tried to think of cool stuff to make it awesome. I considered a zip-line to make a dramatic exit, but my yard just isn’t right for one. One thing that’s always been in my head is a fire pole.

fire pole test slide

After a lot of looking, it turns out that there just isn’t a good turnkey solution. The play-set people all sell some variant on this:

Which is nice and powder coated, but also pretty locked in to a specific deck height that they use for little play structures. They just seemed wheezy. My brother suggested I look on Amazon for stripper poles (which they do, in fact, sell), and I read a great description of using a flagpole for exactly the same application. All of these poles are sectional, though, so they’ll be wiggly. If I went that route, I’d probably fill it with sand to stabilize it.

I recognize, though, that my daughter will probably climb it almost as much as she slides down. And the last thing I want to worry about it the pole breaking. I finally settled on a chain link fence post. They are galvanized steel, so any slivers would be a bit of a bummer, but if it gets slid enough, it could polish up OK. The challenge was finding one 13′ long. I finally located a supplier who would cut a chunk off a 20′ section for me, but I had to get there during business hours.

Just on a lark, I swung in to Alco metals, one of my favorite spots. This is a serious industrial sales facility who still let you bring your kids in to paw through their scrap heap. I found a section of 2 1/2″ stainless steel tubing with a 1/16″ wall thickness. This was overkill in a big way, but it was so beautiful. I went to the sales counter and we talked a bit and she ended up selling me 13.5′ for $96. This was an deal made everyone’s day.pole on car

I got it home and realized I had some serious work to do. There was a brick step leftover from the original patio. I assumed this would be a simple matter to bust out, but it turned out the bricks were in 6″ of concrete. I levered it up a bit at a time and whacked it with the sledge (n.b., buy the damn sledge hammer. I tried for a while to do this with a pick and breaker bar, and that was just dumb)… eventually got it into small enough pieces.breaking step

Next I spent a bunch of time clamping it in place to find the right spacing off the platform. The description on this site is about right. Close enough so the littlest can reach it, so it feels a little tight for a grown up. It ended up about 14″ away.wpid-20141228_162339.jpg

Dug about 18″ down with a post-hole digger and put a couple of inches of gravel in the bottom. I screwed a board up at the eves and used a Simpson bracket for chain link fences to secure it. The bracket was about 1/8″ too small, but I had a sledge hammer, so we reached an agreement.    hole for pole

Mixed up some concrete and filled the hole. Really, I don’t think this bad boy is going anywhere any time soon.wpid-20141228_162734.jpg

At the end, it turned out exactly like I’d envisioned. It even looked a lot like the drawing I’d done in sketchup. And the pole is really fun. It’s only a 5′ drop, but it feels like a long slide. For grown ups, it’s a tight fit between the pole and the platform, but it’s a cinch to swing yourself way out so you go down facing the house. tree house with firepole

10 thoughts on “Tree house fire pole

  1. Matt LJ

    Howdy, Ive been looking at doing the same with a treehouse that Ive been building (also with no tree), Ive been thinking about a stainless pole but can only find 1.5mm wall thickness material (without breaking the bank). Ive been a bit worried that it wont be robust enough, but then found your site… At the length you have, how rigid is the 1.6mm wall pole the way youve set it up?
    Thanks
    Matt

  2. mooseo Post author

    Hi Matt,
    It’s funny, but I had the same worry as you when I was thinking this through. I was sure I should get 1/8″ (~3 mm) wall thickness, because I was worried it would buckle if kids were shaking it or swinging on it. Then I picked up a chunk of this stuff at the metal yard and realized that 1.5 mm is plenty stout for this application. I’m still not positive if I would hang a hammock from it, but I might. For comparison, I also have slackline poles in my yard. They are 3 mm thick poles, I use a ratchet arrangement to put well over 1000 N lateral force on them, and the steel never gives any indication it’s about to fail. The concrete did rip out of the ground once, but the steel pole was fine.

    I’d go ahead and use the 1.5 mm stuff without any worry. The stainless is great, too. I wasn’t sure I needed it, but I’m really glad that’s what I ended up with.

  3. Wade Price

    Hey, I just want to see how the stainless has held up over time. I’m looking to do the same thing and weighing my options.

  4. mooseo Post author

    Good question, Wade. It looks absolutely the same as the day it was new. I’m actually surprised because I’m used to putting stainless near salt water. Here in my backyard there is no pitting, and no discoloration around the seam.

  5. mooseo Post author

    I suppose you could, sure. Attaching would be tricky, but you could probably do it by putting U-bolts around the post and then through holes drilled in the wood. One thing to be careful of, though, is any sort of lateral force applied to the post. Metal fence posts have thin walls and are vulnerable to getting bent. With a lot of weight on top, bumping into it with a car or heavy wheelbarrow could cause the post to buckle and the whole thing to be unstable. I don’t know if posts come in different wall thicknesses, but error on the side of thicker. I’m no engineer, mind you.

  6. Carl

    Thanks for posting this. I have almost the exact same issues/questions as you originally had and now I know what to look for in regards to making my own pole as opposed to a pre fab one that doesn’t fit what I need. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Anisha

    Hi,

    Your descriptions & pictures were really helpful so thank you for that! I’m trying to build a fire pole as a set piece for a play, and one of the challenges is that we’re attaching it to a deck rather than the ceiling so I’m not sure how long to make that joining piece. I know you said 14″ was a little tight for an adult, so do you have any suggestions for what we should make that length instead?

    Thanks!
    Anisha

  8. mooseo Post author

    Do you have any sort of wall you can use to support it ? You need to have any supports above where you jump on, so maybe an angle at the top of the pole. You could have the top support extend a few feet away.

    14″ is tight, but manageable. Any extra you can get would help, with 18″ more than enough, I’d say

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